The Hospital of St Cross, England’s oldest continuing almshouse, comprises medieval and Tudor buildings, including a medieval hall and tower, Tudor cloister, Norman church, and gardens reflecting a seventeenth century connection with North America, all Grade 1 listed by English Heritage.
The term “Hospital” has the same origin as the word “hospitality”: for over 850 years St Cross has provided food and shelter to people in need, in the Christian tradition of caring for the less fortunate. It has been home to the Master and Brethren of St Cross since medieval times: there are presently 25 Brothers. Visitors can still receive the Wayfarer’s Dole, a horn of beer and a morsel of bread, given freely to anyone who requests it.
In this view south-east from the Tudor cloister across the main quadrangle we see the chimneys of the Brothers’ apartments, which date back to the fifteenth century. These are arranged on several staircases; on each staircase there are two apartments on the ground floor and two above, in much the same way as in the oldest Oxford and Cambridge colleges. There is one chimney stack for each staircase.
Typically, each apartment has a sitting room, bedroom, kitchen, shower-room and separate WC. The little flats are unfurnished and each Brother usually provides his own furniture. However, in cases of extreme poverty the Hospital can sometimes help with the provision of some furniture if needed.